This chapter talks about putting our faith into practice. The writer specifically addresses the sin of favoritism in the church. Jewish culture in that day was all about recognition and honor, but the rich and poor, ordinary and famous, were equal in God's eyes. In fact God has chosen "the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom" (2:5). God's people needed to reflect that kingdom value by seeing them as God sees them.
We are to love our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18, Luke 10:25-37; John 13:34). It is called the "royal law" because it was given to us by God, the King of kings. Jesus said it was the second greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and all the Law and the prophets hang on the two commandments of loving God and loving our neighbor. Pretty important.
Here is a comparison/contrast of the Two Kinds of "Faith" in the second part of this chapter:
Faith without works really is not faith at all. Faith will manifest itself in the fruit of works. True faith leads to action. It goes from the head to the heart to the hands.
On Loving Our Neighbor
Loving others is always a tough one for me. Basically, I love everybody! With that said, I have had to learn that there are some people that I can love, but they do not have to be my intimate friends. I cannot have everyone in my life, and I have not always been particular about the people with whom I have intimate relationships. That has sometimes led to a world of hurt for me (because I wear my heart on my sleeve).
So, the trick is not showing partiality in the midst of having some people who are more intimate than others. I have learned to let God make the call on who He has for me to move towards. In the past, I have not listened to His voice and let my emotions and compassion dictate, and that has led to being bit in the hand as I try (in the flesh) to feed their deep and fathomless, empty hearts of need. Bad idea! Only God can do that anyway!
I read some wise words from Wiersbe this morning (Can you tell I really like him?):
Christian love does not mean that I must like a person and agree with him on everything. I may not like his vocabulary or his habits, and I may not want him for an intimate friend. Christian love means treating others the way God has treated me. It is an act of the will, not an emotion that I try to manufacture. The motive is to glorify God. The means is the power of the Spirit within ("for the fruit of the Spirit is love"). As I act in love toward another, I may find myself drawn more and more to him, and I may see in him (through Christ) qualities that before were hidden to me.
(The Bible Exposition Commentary: Volume 2, Jas 2:8–11, p. 352)On Faith and Works
I do a comparative study of the Qur'an and the Bible with my Muslim friend once a week. We studied Abraham's obedience last week. The two stories in both books line up. I was able to share the verses about Abraham mentioned in James with her because many Muslims believe that when we say, "Salvation is a free gift," that implies that we do not believe in works. Works do not save us, but they show the gift of salvation is really in our lives! So, you cannot have one without the other. If you do not have both, you probably do not have real faith.
Do you show partiality based on a person's social standing and economic position?
Is your faith evident by tangible service?
Lord, thank You for giving us righteousness because of the blood of Christ; that we do not earn it but receive it as a gift by faith. Work that faith through us to our hearts of love and hands of service. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.